Wednesday, 7 March 2012

My Day on the Farm!

My heart sunk as my alarm screamed at there really any need to start farming so early?! Yes that’s right, I had signed up to do a ‘day on the farm’. I used to work in a Tourist Information centre and found that people had a genuine curiosity as to ‘life on the land’ and I felt I should give them a taster, I didn’t realise it would require such an early start though.

Believe it or not I actually live on a farm, my partner is one of many generations of farmers, apart from wearing my designer willies, I am not the most keen when it comes to agriculture. It’s not that I don’t find the farm beautiful; it just doesn’t ‘float my boat’ - after all there are no shops on the farm. But here it was, not just an opportunity to please my boyfriend, but to  give the lovely readers of this blog a chance to see what a real Welsh farming experience is.

The Tractor and 'Bale Shredding' Machine
Despite the alarm I didn’t quite manage to get up on time, I told him I would meet him in the shed a little later. In the shed he was feeding the cattle with a very fancy machine which, led by a tractor, breaks up a bale of hay and ‘spits’ it out of a side funnel into the cattle shed. The cows seemed to love it and literally buried their heads in the hay as soon as it came spraying down- it was quite amusing.
The Cows Enjoying their Breakfast!

My partner’s farm has around 200 cows and over 2000 sheep- I’m told that this is quite a few. He also farms on different terrains which he assured me would provide very interesting blog material. He farms sheep on a mountain and down a valley, and he also farms his cattle in a shed or by the sand dunes down at Dyffryn Ardudwy beach.

The cows following the trailer
So, after feeding the first lot of cattle, (those I think I have quite a cushy life) we travelled by tractor (a very bumpy experience but all in all quite fun) to the sand dunes to feed the next lot. These are hardier cows as they live outside and among them were some very cute calves. We went through the same process and the bale was ‘spat’ out of the noisy machine. As these cows are free in a field they ‘ran along’ after us following the trail of hay. I stood outside to take some pictures, they edged toward me, cows are actually quite intimidating and I shouted for the tractor to stop so that I could jump back in. The farmer kindly left me in the tractor alone to take pictures for me!

The Lambs at the Market
I had chosen a good day to farm as it was market day in Bala. It is a sheep market so I got a chance to mingle with the sheep too! We went up to another shed to fetch the selected lambs which had previously been gathered from the mountain. We loaded them up a short ramp into a trailer with the help of a sheep dog and loud noises! They did so without much fuss and we were off on our way to Bala (with 100 lambs). When we got there we went for  some fish and chips (one of the highlights of being a farmer means that they need their fuel!) and then  we offloaded the lambs into pens according to their weight and waited for the auction to begin. Now these lambs are not the type that you see prancing across a field, they are actually quite big and look more like fully grown sheep to me, but I was reassured that lambs are actually quite large before they are sold.
Me with our Sheep!

Me Walking around the Market.

When the auction did start I really had no idea what was going on! The auctioneer spoke so quickly I couldn’t tell if he was speaking English or Welsh (as it turns out it was English). We watched and waited for him to get to our lambs which were divided into four different pens.  I spotted three main buyers eyeing up our stock.  The auctioneer reached us and the bidding kicked off. I must admit it was all quite exciting and I enjoyed watching people fight for something that we had bought to them. Apparently we got good prices- £41 each for the smallest lambs, weighing around 23kg each and the largest, weighing 29kg were sold for £58 each, not too bad for a days work!

The Auction Taking Place

The 'Scanner'
So, that was my day on the farm, quite a success if I do say so myself. I actually enjoyed it so much that I went back yesterday to take some snaps of the ‘scanner’. The scanner is man who comes along with an ultrasound machine and scans each ewe in order to tell if she is expecting a lamb, if so how many or if she is baron.  Each ewe is sprayed according to her pregnancy conditions, red for two lambs and green for those that were not pregnant. My partner told me that this is the first year that they have scanned and they have decided to do it order to get the best idea of numbers. I watched for a while, and even helped spray the ewes, but looking over at the 2000 sheep waiting in line; I decided that my work back in the warm house beckoned and that I must leave it to the professionals!

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